9 Online Video Etiquette Tips for Voice Actors

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Photo Source: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

While we all practice social distancing and turn to technology to engage with each other during this coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to remember online etiquette. Everyone is working, meeting, teaching, learning, and doing so much more online together including voiceover actors. That means we’re using video services like Zoom, Skype, and other applications much more often than we were before. So how as a voice actor can you engage in these visual online mediums in a respectful way? 

Well, first and foremost it’s important to remember that whether you’re speaking with producers, creative directors, agents, casting directors, and animators, finalizing plans for your commercial, explainer video, eLearning, and narration project, or using the platforms to audition, you can be seen on the camera. You’re visible. Other than making sure your hair is brushed and you’re appropriately dressed, there are other things to keep in mind for this type of interaction. Just like in an in-person meeting, proper etiquette needs to be upheld. What does this mean? Here are some tips.

1. Introduce yourself.
If you’re meeting for the first time, say your first and last name, and where you’re located geographically. It helps ground you in someone else’s mind.

2. Don’t hide. 
Don’t leave your camera off and hide behind the black box that appears with your name. Turn your camera on so people can see you!

3. Hold steady.
A video call where someone is constantly in motion can be jarring and nauseating for the viewer. It’s difficult to keep still if you’re holding a phone up to your face, so make sure you’re on a laptop or computer that is placed on a steady flat surface. Use a table or desk to ensure that you’re able to sit up and have a clear straight-on view of the camera. If you want to use your phone, there are small and easy-to-store tripods you can buy. Use your phone in horizontal mode, which is a better format than vertical for online meetings.

4. Find the right angle.
Prop up your camera so that it’s not placed below you but rather above you. If the camera is positioned below you, the vantage point of looking up your neck isn’t very flattering and could be distracting. You want the viewer to look at you as if you’re talking eye to eye, so put your laptop or phone tripod on top of some stacked books if you have to.

5. Maintain eye contact.
It’s understandable that you would want to look right at the person talking to you rather than that little green dot at the top of your screen or the camera placed on top of your computer. But your eye-line and where you need to look isn’t on their lovely face on the screen, it’s on the camera above. If you’re looking at their eyes on the screen which are below your camera lens, it will appear that you’re looking down. It can feel awkward and unnatural to look into the lens of your computer and the camera’s eye, but practice makes perfect and your collaborators will believe you are fully engaged because they’ll see you looking straight at them!

6. Find the best light. 
Make sure you’re visible! Don’t be a shadowy figure in the darkness, but don’t be too lit from above so that your features look strange. Find a pleasant, happy medium. The light source should be in front of you or beside you, but not in the camera view. Some people like fluorescent circular ring lights that reduce facial shadows and the appearance of imperfections. Experiment, take a screenshot of your computer, and compare and contrast the results. Decide for yourself what looks best!

7. Be heard.
Audio is just as important in these interactions as the visuals. We are voiceover actors, after all! Make sure you set up in a quiet place, ideally in a room with carpeting and window treatments to absorb sound, so you can be heard. Use a headset so that the audio is clear and more localized. Get in the habit of muting. If you’re typing on your computer, that’s loud and annoying to others. It’s considerate to mute yourself when other people are speaking, then unmute when it’s your turn. 

8. Be conscious of what’s behind you.
You might not notice what’s going on behind you, but the person you’re talking to absolutely will. You want them to focus on you, not what’s in the background, so make sure that there is not too much activity going on back there. Preferably the background is simple, if not blank. Some people use green screens so that they can really control what it looks like behind them by superimposing an image that you select from your own photos or an image you find from one of the royalty-free sites for background images and videos. Roaming cats, messy office shelves, or stray people walking past are distracting and unprofessional.

9. Don’t hog the mic. 
Last but not least, be respectful of everyone’s desire to speak. Take your cues from the host, speak and then be quiet, encourage others to speak if they haven’t been heard from, and have empathy for everyone since some people may not be as comfortable using these platforms and need a little guidance to have a successful experience.

Keep your thoughts and comments brief so that your coworkers aren’t waiting too long before they can reply with their input. Unlike email, you don’t need to go into a lot of detail. This becomes more like a streamlined conversation rather than information being sent back and forth in a bulky email. Save emails for sharing important information that you want documented, for sending large attachments, or if you need to discuss something in more detail. 

Communication and presentation are important in any business and voiceover is no different. Be sure you’re always putting your best foot forward when working over video. Projects will go much smoother when everyone is communicating clearly and professionally. The directors, agents, producers, and studios will appreciate the effort you make and the care you take so they’ll want to work with you again. These apps are our friends and once we’re comfortable using them, they can be great tools for your business. If you remember to make things better for someone else, they will also go better for you!

*This post was originally published on April 10, 2020. It has since been updated.

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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Debbie Irwin
Debbie Irwin is an NYC-based award-winning voiceover talent who has been the voice of the Statue of Liberty on the landmark’s audio tour, major international museum audio tours, the voice of Big Pharma, documentaries, commercials, corporate narrations and the Voice of God for live awards shows. Her expertise is medical narration.
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